Friday, January 21, 2011

Botswana President invites Ouattara but deny Bushmen rights

President Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
The President of Botswana, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, has reportedly invited Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the disputed 2010 presidential election in Ivory Coast to Botswana for a state visit. This was announced barely a day after the government of Botswana approved the opening of a $3 billion diamond mine on the ancestral land of oppressed indigenous Bushmen in Botswana.

Khama's government argues that African leaders (like Laurent Gbagbo) who reject election results and cling to power "deny people the right to have leaders of their choice." This argument, no doubt, holds water but at the same time it is hypocritical - coming from a government that continues to deny indigenous land rights of it's own people.

Why should a government defend rights abroad, and at the same time violate indigenous rights in it's own backyard?

In 2002, the government of Botswana evicted Bushmen from their land and resettled them in camps after the discovery of diamonds in their ancestral land. Although some Bushmen have been allowed to return to their land following a High Court ruling, the government continues to make life difficult for them by denying them access to water and the right to hunt on their land.

Survival International, an organization working for tribal and indigenous rights, maintains that the Bushmen were evicted from their ancestral land to make room for lucrative diamond exploitation. The recent approval of the construction of a diamond mine worth billions of dollars on the disputed ancestral land of the Bushmen backs this assertion.

In December 2010, President Khama whose regime is apparently more interested in respecting voting rights abroad than the rights of Kalahari Bushmen, described Botswana's indigenous Bushmen as "Primitive," "primeval" and living a "life of backwardness."

It is true that Ivorians have the right to have a leader of their choice, and President Khama has recognized Ouattara as that leader. But it is also true that the government of Botswana has an obligation to respect Bushmen's right to live on their ancestral land and maintain their way of life no matter how "primitive" or "primeval" it may seem.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search this Blog

Related Posts with Thumbnails